Getting to Know Allah


The Hajj and the Umrah

22:67 To every nation, We have given a sacred rite which they observe. So do not let them dispute with you in this matter. Call them to your Lord, for you are on a straight course.

22:68 And if they dispute with you, say: “Allah knows best what you are doing.”

22:69 Allah will judge between you on the Day of Resurrection, regarding what you disagree about.

22:70 Do you not know that Allah knows what is in the heavens and on earth. All that is in a Book; and that is an easy matter for Allah.

22:71 And they worship, besides Allah, that concerning which He did not send down any authority, and of which they have no knowledge. The wrongdoers shall have no supporter.

22:72 And when Our Clear revelations are recited to them, you will recognize in the face of the unbelievers the denial. They will almost fall upon those who recite to them Our Revelations. Say: “Shall I tell you about what is worse than that? It is the Fire which Allah has promised the unbelievers; and what a wretched fate!”

Christianity has its Ten Commandments; Islam its Five Pillars, four of which (1,2,4 and 5) are about worshipping Allah.

1. Shahadah, declaring allegiance to God.
2. Salat, daily prayers.
3. Zakat, annual charity.
4. Saum, month-long fasting.
5. Hajj, the pilgrimage to Mecca.

A Muslim who fails to observe even one of these pillars in the prescribed manner dramatically increases his or her chances of spending an eternity on fire in Hell.

Apart from demanding a day of rest, the Christian god is quite flexible about how He should be worshipped. Not Allah. You worship only who He reveals you can worship (revelation 22:71), and that is Him exclusively; and there is only one right way, and that is His Way. His way includes a mandatory pilgrimage to Mecca, the Hajj, the fifth of the Five Pillars.

The Importance of Mecca

42:7 And so, We revealed to you an Arabic Qur’an in order to warn the Mother of the Cities (Mecca) and those around it and to warn of the Day of Forgathering which is undoubted, whereon a group shall be in Paradise and a group shall be in Hell.

Every able-bodied, financially capable Muslim adult must perform the Hajj at least once during his or her lifetime, thereby making the Saudis the custodian of the metaphorical gold mine, a mine which never runs out of gold.

Less than 300 meters from the Ka'ba is the Abraj Al Bait Complex with its five stories, 4000 stores shopping mall.

Why Mecca? Mecca is not only the birth place of the Prophet Muhammad but also the place where Abraham is said to have built the first shrine to the one true god, Allah.

5:97 Allah has made the Ka’ba, the Sacred House, a foundation of religion for all mankind, together with the Sacred Month and the sacrificial offerings and their garlands, so that you may know that Allah knows what is the heavens and on the earth, and that Allah knows everything very well.

At the center of town is a cube made of bricks and covered by a thick black cloth, the Ka’ba (also spelled Ka'bah). Inside you will find a black stone, a meteorite about the size of a basketball, which is said to have been part of the original shrine built by Abraham. In one tradition it is the stone that Adam grabbed just before he and Eve were literally flung out of Paradise; Adam landing somewhere in present day Sri Lanka on a mountain aptly named Adam’s Peak, and Eve near present day Mecca. Mecca, in Islam, is the center of the universe.

2:150 From whatever place you come out, turn your faces towards the Sacred Mosque. And wherever you all are, turn your faces towards it, lest people should have cause to argue with you, except for the evil-doers among them. Do not fear them, but fear Me so that I may complete My Grace upon you, and that you may be rightly guided.

The importance of Mecca for Muslims cannot be overstated. It is not a safe place for non-believers. An unbeliever caught in or around Mecca must convert on the spot or face summary execution.

In 1979, non-Muslim gendarmes (GIGN, "National Gendarmerie Intervention Group") had to convert to Islam before being allowed to assist the Saudis "to liberate the Great Mosque which had been taken over by radical Islamist students who denounced the corruption of the regime." Le Point

A few verses confirming Mecca’s honoured status among cities and as the site of the pilgrimage and the Ka’ba.

3:96 The first House founded for mankind is truly that at Bakka (Mecca), blessed and a guidance to all the nations.

3:97 Therein are clear signs and the sacred site of Abraham. Whoever enters it will be secure. It is the duty to Allah incumbent on those who can, to make the pilgrimage to the House. But with respect to those who disbelieve, Allah has no need of all mankind.

22:26 And [remember] when We appointed for Abraham the site of the (Sacred) House [saying]: “You shall not associate with Me anything and purify My House for those who circle around, those who stand up, those who kneel and those who prostrate themselves;”

22:27 And proclaim the pilgrimage to the people, and then they will come on foot or on every lean mount, coming from every deep ravine,

22:28 To witness benefits of theirs, and mention Allah’s name, during certain numbered days, over such beast of the flocks as He has provided them with. Eat, then, from them and feed the wretched poor.

22:29 Then, let them complete their self-cleansing and fulfill their vows and circle round the Ancient House (the Ka’bah).

22:30 All that; and whoever venerates the sacred things of Allah, it shall be well for him with His Lord. Cattle have been made lawful to you, except what is recited to you [to avoid]: so shun the abomination of idols, and shun false testimony.

22:31 Remain true to Allah, associating no gods with Him. He who associates anything with Allah is like one who has fallen from the sky and is snatched by the birds, or the wind hurls him down a very steep place.

22:32 All that; and he who venerates the sacred rites of Allah – it is the fruit of the piety of the hearts.

22:33 You have some benefit therefrom, for an appointed term; then their place of sacrifice is the Ancient House.

Animal Slaughter

Revelation 22:33 applies to all animals destined for sacrifice, not only cows, and was sent down, according to Moududi, to clear up a misunderstanding.

Moududi: This is to remove the misunderstanding about getting any benefit from the animals dedicated for sacrifice as they were also included in the "Symbols of Allah. This was necessitated because the Arabs believed that it was unlawful to get any benefit from them. One could neither ride on them nor carry any load on them nor consume their milk, after they had been dedicated for sacrifice during Hajj. In this verse that misunderstanding has been removed. Hadrat Abu Hurairah and Anas have reported that the Holy Prophet saw a tnan walking in a miserable condition on foot leading his camel by the nose-string. When the Holy Prophet asked him to ride on it, he replied that it was his sacrificial offering. The Holy Prophet again urged him to ride on his camel.

22:34 And to every nation, We have appointed a holy rite, so that they might mention Allah’s Name over whatever He has provided them with of the beasts of the flock. For your God is one God. Submit to Him and announce the good news to the humble;

22:35 Those who, when Allah is mentioned, their hearts tremble, and those who endure what befalls them, and those who perform the prayer and spend from what We have provided them with.

22:36 And the camels We have made for you as parts of the sacred rites of Allah. You have some good therein; so mention Allah’s Name over them as they stand in line. When their sides fall to the ground, eat of them and feed the contented and the beggar. That is how We subjected them to you, that perchance you may be thankful.

22:37 Their flesh and blood will not reach Allah, but your piety will reach Him. Thus He subjected them to you, so that you may glorify Allah for guiding you. And announce the good news to the beneficent.

Animal cruelty was not always part of the god worshipping rituals practiced by the pre-Islamic Arabs:

Narrated Said bin Al-Musaiyab:

Al-Bahira was an animal whose milk was spared for the idols and other dieties, and so nobody was allowed to milk it.

As-Saiba was an animal which they (i.e. infidels) used to set free in the names of their gods so that it would not be used for carrying anything.

Abu Huraira said, "The Prophet said, 'I saw Amr bin 'Amir bin Luhai Al-Khuzai dragging his intestines in the (Hell) Fire, for he was the first man who started the custom of releasing animals (for the sake of false gods).'"

Bukhari 76.723

The Umrah

Other verses pertaining to the pilgrimages and the penance for not being able to complete them as prescribed can be found in chapter 2, The Cow. In these revelations, Allah again leaves nothing to chance. The "proper pilgrimage" in revelation 2:196 is the Hajj, the "lesser pilgrimage" is the Umrah, which is not compulsory but highly recommended.

2:196 Perform the proper pilgrimage and the lesser pilgrimage for the sake of Allah. But if you are prevented, then make whatever offering (a sheep) is available; then do not shave your heads until the offering reaches its destination (where it can be slaughtered). Whoever of you is sick or has an injury in the head can atone for it by fasting, giving alms or sacrificing. When you are secure, whoever combines the lesser pilgrimage and the proper pilgrimage, should make whatever offering is available. But if he cannot, then let him fast for three days during the pilgrimage and seven days when he returns. That is a total of ten full days. This is incumbent on him whose family is not present at the Sacred Mosque. Fear Allah and know that His retribution is severe.

No sex please, we are on pilgrimage.

2:197 Pilgrimage is [during] the appointed months. He who determines to perform the pilgrimage during them, shall abstain from intercourse, debauchery and acrimonious quarrel. And whatever good you do, Allah knows it. Make provision (for your journey). The best provision, however, is the fear of Allah. So fear Me, O people of understanding.

Deaths, Molestations and Managing the Hajj

Permission must be obtained beforehand to perform the Hajj. More than two million Muslims every year obtain this permission from the Saudis and travel to the city at the center of Allah’s Universe during the last month of the Islamic calendar for the Hajj.

The Hajj consist of four major rituals, the most important being the mandatory seven circles around the Ka'ba followed by the re-enactment of Hagar's frantic search for water*, Abraham's stoning of the devil and ending with the slow ritual bleeding to death of tens of thousands of animals, goats mostly, camels, the favoured offering of the Prophet having fallen into disfavor for both logistical and practical reasons.

* After Abraham’s wife Sarah became pregnant, he was told by Allah to take Hagar and their son Ishmael (Islam consider Hagar a legitimate wife of Abraham and Ishmael, not Isaac, the Patriarchs’ first born son) from their home in Palestine to the desert wilderness of Arabia and leave them there. When their water ran out, Hagar ran frantically between the hills of Safa and Marwa until she collapsed next to her son who struck his foot on the ground causing a spring to gush forth, the famous well of Zam Zam.

What Hagar did after her Isma'il (also spelled Ishmael) caused the well of Zam Zam to gush forth may have done more than simply altered the course of scriptural history.

Narrated Ibn Abbas:

The Prophet said, "May Allah be merciful to the mother of Ishmael! If she had left the water of Zam-Zam (fountain) as it was, (without constructing a basin for keeping the water), (or said, "If she had not taken handfuls of its water"), it would have been a flowing stream.

Jurhum (an Arab tribe) came and asked her, 'May we settle at your dwelling?'

She said, 'Yes, but you have no right to possess the water.'

They agreed."

Bukhari 40.556

The steady increase in the number of converts making the major pilgrimage has presented some serious problems for the Saudis. Problems that cannot easily be solved as no solution can interfere with the meticulous rituals of the Hajj as prescribed by God and His Messenger. This problem is bound to get worse (Islam is the world’s fastest growing religion).

While the Saudis have made constant progress in safeguarding the lives of pilgrims during the Hajj, disasters still occur on a recurring basis. The latest, at this writing, the death of more than a thousand pilgrims in 2015, most trampled to death during the stoning of the devil ritual. This ritual is probably the most difficult to manage because Abraham stoned the devil, not once, not twice, but three times** with seven stones reaching their target on each occasion as must the stones of the pilgrims who launch their pebbles at pillars representing the devil.

** "When he [Abraham] left Mina and was brought down to (the defile called) al-Aqaba, the Devil appeared to him at Stone-Heap of the Defile. Gabriel said to him: 'Pelt him!' so Abraham threw seven stones at him so that he disappeared from him. Then he appeared to him at the Middle Stone-Heap. Gabriel said to him: 'Pelt him!' so he pelted him with seven stones so that he disappeared from him. Then he appeared to him at the Little Stone-Heap. Gabriel said to him: 'Pelt him!' so he pelted him with seven stones like the little stones for throwing with a sling. So the Devil withdrew from him." Al-Azraqi

Muslims make up approximately 25 percent of the world population of about 7 billion (United States Census Bureau 2011). Converting only 10% of the world’s current population of unbelievers to Islam could present the Saudis with insurmountable obstacles to staying within God’s instructions and His Messenger’s example for the Hajj.

A problem that the Saudis have not been able to solve, with only an estimated billion and a half believers, country quotas and a large if finite area around the Ka’bah which the believers must circle while rhythmically bowing and praying, is the groping that women and girls must endure.

It is next to impossible to segregate the sexes during the Hajj, therefore, women and girls must silently submit, less they be accused of arousing the males next to them, to the probing hands of men and boys whose religion does not allow them to get as close to the opposite sex as during the Hajj until they are married, and who seek to understand with their hands what their religion has denied their eyes until their wedding night.

A young woman I had coffee with years ago described her experience of the Hajj this way:

"I spent the entire time with a least one man’s hand on my ass.” She half got up from her chair, leaned forward mimicking the bowing motion, lowered her head and raised her hands. "As my hands went up," she said, "two hands would go down to grab my butt, but of course, you don't dare complain.

I would not fully understand what she meant by her statement "you don't dare complain", until years later when I read an article by Syed Shahabuddin writing in the Milli Gazette, Indian Muslim’s leading English newspaper, in which he objected to the stoning of women for adultery (emphasis mine).

Apart from the brutality of the 'Rajm' (stoning), repugnant to conscience, here is an element of gender injustice in the operation of the traditional law which allows the male partner to get off scot-free, even if he has coerced and raped the female. If the woman lodges a complaint, her complaint is taken as a testimony against herself and, therefore, amounts to admission and requires no further evidence while it is necessary to get four witnesses against the man.

The young woman whose experience is recounted here was accompanied by her father. He was not aware of what happened to his daughter until after, even thought he was close to her at all times, trapped like her in a swirling mass of humanity grinding its way around the shrouded cube that is the Ka’ba.

The Anthropological Impact of the Hajj

In response to criticism, by believers, of the Catholic Church for such things as The Inquisition and The Crusades, a writer in Le Figaro defined the problem for those who would deny the cause-and-effect of the terrible violence done in Allah’s Name. The following is my translation of pertinent parts of his article. Any misunderstandings or misinterpretations are of course my responsibility.

The Catholic Church is not without its faults. Its history is filled with dark pages it regrets … However, what differentiates Christianity from Islam is that Christians can always return to the values in the Gospels and to the gentle person of Jesus and ignore a Church which has lost its way.

... Jesus is nonviolent. A return [to the teachings] of Jesus is the remedy for the excesses of religious institutions. Looking to the Prophet[/Koran] for guidance, on the other hand, only reinforces the hate and the violence.

Islam is a religion which in both its sacred text (Koran and Book of Hadiths) and in banal rituals promotes hatred and violence.

The ritual stoning of Satan every year at Mecca is not simply a re-enactment of a superstition… Its impact is anthropological. It is a ceremony to which every Muslim is encourage to participate, and which sanctifies and encourages violence…

But the greatest impact on the pilgrims psyche may not be the banal rituals, but the slow painful public way Allah want the animals sacrificed to His Magnificence be put to death, revelation, 22:36; a way His Messenger obviously enjoyed. ...

The Prophet slaughtered seven Budn (camel) with his own hands while the camels were standing. He also sacrificed two horned rams (black and white in color) at Medina.

Bukhari 26.772

A calf slaughtered the ritual way may take up to eleven minutes to die: eleven agonizing minutes during which it is fully aware. In its March 8, 2012 edition, Le Point, the popular mainstream French (France) weekly published excerpts from a confidential government report prepared by Le Conseil général de alimentation, de l’agriculture et des espaces ruraux on La protection animale en abattoir; la question particulière de l’abattoir rituel (Animal protection in slaughterhouses; the question of ritual slaughter, my translation).

The excerpts reveals that during 2010, 2,068,439 cattle, 382,460 calves, 2,568,444 sheep and 35,713 goats were ritually slaughtered i.e. the animal was not rendered unconscious before being bled to death. The longest time reported for an animal to die while fully conscious was six minutes for cattle, almost twice that time for calves at eleven minutes, and five minutes for sheep. No time was available for goats or camels.

The report goes on to describe in great detail the pain and suffering of animals killed the way Allah prefers, and which His Messenger demonstrated at every opportunity.

The mass slaughter of animals that occurs during the Hajj and during one day Festival of Sacrifice, celebrated over all the Muslim world, as to have a conditioning effect on witnesses to the slaughter, especially young men and boys, making them immune to the pain and suffering experienced by living things cruelly put to death; even kindling a love of killing in the most cruel way whether it be an animal or an unbeliever, and they have the example of Allah to fall back on.

Narrated Abu Huraira:

The Prophet said, "On the Day of Resurrection Abraham will meet his father Azar whose face will be dark and covered with dust.

(The Prophet Abraham will say to him): 'Didn't I tell you not to disobey me?' His father will reply: 'Today I will not disobey you.'

Abraham will say: 'O Lord! You promised me not to disgrace me on the Day of Resurrection; and what will be more disgraceful to me than cursing and dishonoring my father?'

Then Allah will say (to him):' 'I have forbidden Paradise for the disbelievers."

Then he will be addressed, 'O Abraham! Look! What is underneath your feet?'

He will look and there he will see a Dhabh (an animal,) blood-stained, which will be caught by the legs and thrown in the (Hell) Fire."

Bukhari 55.569

Post Pilgrimage Rituals and Early Departures

What you can do on the way back from the pilgrimage:

2:198 It is no offence to seek a bounty from your Lord. So when you take off from ‘Arafat, remember Allah (pray to Him) at the sacred monument (a mountain near Muzdalafa, where pilgrims stop for the night on their journey back from ‘Arafat). Remember Him as He guided you, although you were, before that, among those in error.

Narrated Ibn Abbas:

Ukaz, Mijanna and Dhul-Majaz were markets during the Pre-islamic Period. They (i.e. Muslims) considered it a sin to trade there during the Hajj time (i.e. season), so this Verse was revealed: "There is no harm for you if you seek of the Bounty of your Lord during the Hajj season." (2.198)

Bukhari 60.44

2:199 Then take off from where people take off and ask Allah’s forgiveness. Surely Allah is All-Forgiving, Merciful.

Narrated Aisha:

The Quraish people and those who embraced their religion, used to stay at Muzdalifa and used to call themselves Al-Hums, while the rest of the Arabs used to stay at Arafat.

When Islam came, Allah ordered His Prophet to go to 'Arafat and stay at it, and then pass on from there, and that is what is meant by the Statement of Allah: "Then depart from the place whence all the people depart......" (2.199)

Bukhari 60.45

2:200 Once you have performed your rites, remember Allah as you remember your fathers, or even with greater glorification. Some people say: “Our Lord, give us a [a share] in this world.” And yet they have no share in the Hereafter.”

2:201 Other say: “Our Lord, give us a bounty in this world and a bounty in the Hereafter, and protect us from the torment of the Fire.”

2:202 Those have a share (reward) of what they have earned (the good they did). Allah is quick in retribution.

If you have to leave early:

2:203 And remember Allah during appointed days (the three days following the day of sacrifice); but he who hastens making them two (the reference here is to who departs on the second day) incurs no sin, if he fears Allah. So fear Allah and know that you will surely be gathered together before Him.

Al Akhnas, like Abu Lahab, is another contemporary of the Prophet whose appearance in the Koran seems only to be a form of payback. Al-Akhnas allegedly refused to offer his protection to Muhammad after the Prophet’s uncle Abd al-Muttalib died. Al-Akhnas must have at one time perform the Hajj. What he did after he departed did not go unnoticed.

2:204 [You will find] among the people a person whose discourse about life in this world pleases you, and who calls Allah to vouch for what is in his heart, although he is your worst enemy (Al-Akhnas Ibn Shurayq).

2:205 And when he departs, he roams the land sowing corruption therein and destroying crops and livestock; but Allah does not like corruption.

2:206 And if it is said to him: “Fear Allah”, he is seized with pride in sin. Hell shall be sufficient for him and what a miserable resting-place!

Of course, not all people are like Akhnas.

2:207 And some people sell themselves for the sake of Allah’s Favour. Allah is kind to [His] servants.

2:207 And there is the type of man who gives his life to earn the pleasure of Allah. And Allah is full of kindness to (His) devotees. Yusuf Ali